On production day in Virginia Tech’s Multimedia Center, students focus on the task at hand. They rush last-minute edits to the director. They check audio levels, finalize graphics, and focus cameras while anchors prep copy under the set’s bright lights.

Students take their places in front of sleek equipment and produce a newscast for a class.

A true team, the students work closely, share expertise, and thrive in the camaraderie of the process. Plus, these multimedia journalism students learn in a top-of-the-line facility just off the main lobby of the Moss Arts Center.

Students Adam Smith and Samantha Eastman prepare to broadcast the news.
Students Adam Smith and Samantha Eastman prepare to broadcast the news.

“It’s real life professional experience, not only in TV but in video production,” said Syrenthia Robinson, a faculty member in the Department of Communication. “We are multiple platform and multimedia.” The students even produce their own news feed.

“The best part about the Digital Newsroom class is that it is all hands-on,” Robinson said. “We encourage students to jump in and play around. It is a collaborative, open environment where students share their discoveries … and as they share, they learn by teaching. They also work with a Ross graphics system and Adobe Premiere Pro editing suites, which puts them ahead of the competition.”

Senior Sarah Sweeten, who took a studio class in spring 2014, was one of five multimedia journalism majors who opted to serve as a student mentor for a summer course taught by Derley Aguilar. Sweeten, of Mullica Hill, New Jersey, said she helped guide students through the how-to’s of each position, giving advice when needed.

“It also taught me to think like a reporter … to pitch ideas and track down people,” she said.

That class produced three, 20-minute episodes called “Summer Sessions” that feature fun things to do in the New River Valley. They highlighted such things as the Aerial Adventure Park at Mountain Lake as well as a lead singer and mandolin player in a local band. The show aired on the Blacksburg cable access channel and on the Web.

Advanced Instructor Syrenthia Robinson, third from left, works with students in the Multimedia Center's control room during a taping.
Advanced Instructor Syrenthia Robinson, third from left, works with students in the Multimedia Center's control room during a taping.

Aguilar returned to teach at her alma mater in 2006. She said she remembers shows being put together in the basement of Agnew Hall and the old studio in Schultz Hall.

“Our big, new studio provides students with the opportunity to implement skills, knowledge, and build on-camera confidence,” she said.  “Plus, this state-of-the-art facility is outfitted with technology that is used in top-50 newsrooms in the country.”

Cameron Austin of Roanoke, Virginia, a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in sociology, is editor-in-chief of the Collegiate Times.

“While I plan on pursuing a career in print journalism, I also feel like I have a really strong background in broadcast journalism,” said Austin, a studio mentor and former intern for The Roanoke Times. “It's helped me think more digitally as a leader for the Collegiate Times and incorporate broadcast and digital platforms with the newspaper.”

Sweeten interned with WSLS in Roanoke and worked basketball and football games for Raycom and ESPN. She wants to parlay those opportunities into a sports broadcasting position after graduation in May 2015.

“Just this past year alone, being in the communication department has opened so many doors for me,” Sweeten said. “For students who want a hands-on learning experience and classes that they will really want to go to, multimedia journalism/communication is definitely the right choice. Being a communication major has helped make this 30,000-plus-student school feel like a small community.”

Senior Josh Gonzalez, of Fairfax, Virginia, also helped Raycom at campus sporting events and plans to pursue sports broadcasting in the future. “The fact that we gain experience with the same type of equipment they use in the field has been really helpful and exciting.”  

Recent Virginia Tech graduates are on the air. Wolf Gohlke, a 2014 graduate, is a sports reporter and anchor for WVIR NBC in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The new multimedia studio’s Digital Newsroom was great,” Gohlke said. “It gave me insight into what it would be like to work in TV news.  Many things I learned there translated to the professional arena.”

  • For more information on this topic, contact Jean Elliott at 540-231-5915.

Meet communication alumni who work in broadcasting

Atia Abawi
Atia Abawi

A number of Virginia Tech communication alumni have a national broadcast presence. The list includes the following people:

  • Atia Abawi, a 2003 graduate, is a foreign correspondent based in the Middle East and an author. Abawi received the 2014 Outstanding Recent Alumni award for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
  • Peggy Fox, a 1986 graduate, is a three-time Emmy award winning multimedia journalist who reports and anchors the news for WUSA9 in Washington, D.C.
  • Hoda Kotb, a 1986 graduate, is news anchor and host for NBC’s “Today” and “Dateline NBC.”
  • Tim Leaton, a 2007 graduate, is an assistant editor for “America's Got Talent” and whose film credits include “Tropic Thunder.” Leaton was the 2006 Film Your Issue national winner as an undergraduate.
  • Molly Line, a 1999 graduate is a Boston-based correspondent for Fox News. 
  • Karen McNew, a 1996 graduate, earned a 2014 National Capital Emmy Award winner for Best News Anchor while at WSLS 10 in Roanoke, Virginia.
  • Brian Sullivan, a 1993 graduate, is co-anchor of CNBC’s “Street Signs.”
  • Pierre Thomas, a 1984 graduate, is the senior justice correspondent for ABC News.

Recent communication graduates working in television journalism include the following:

  • Ben Brandis, a 2011 graduate, is a news producer at WTVD ABC 11 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Mary Dunleavy, a 2010 graduate, is a sports reporter at KTHV in Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • Wolfgang Gohlke, a 2014 graduate, is a sports reporter at WVIR NBC 29, Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Brendan King, a 2013 graduate, is a reporter at WITN NBC 7, Greenville, North Carolina.
  • Kayla Whitt Lambert, a 2013 graduate, is a multimedia journalist at WVVA NBC 6 in Bluefield, West Virginia.
  • Josh Parcell, a 2011 graduate, is a producer for ESPN and college football blogger.
  • Matt Peterson, a 2012 graduate, is a sports anchor for WSFY ABC in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
  • Perrin Raudabaugh, a 2012 graduate, is a marketing strategy coordinator for Disney and ESPN Media Networks, Los Angeles.
  • Jenny Walsh, a 2012, graduate, is a reporter at KAGS NBC 6, Bryan, Texas.